Un observador inglés (16) – From ‘Brand Spain’ to gang rape. Several things need to really change, and fast.

Enric Millo, the Spanish government’s delegate in Catalonia, said during the week that ‘the government of Spain is building confidence around the world, and everyone sees that we have a consolidated democracy.’ Well, let’s just consider that absolutely absurd claim, Enric, as we reflect on some of the week’s news, more or less in the order that events unfolded. Much of what has happened in Spain in the past 6 days has been slated and ridiculed in the international media, bringing further damage (if that’s possible) to ‘Brand Spain’ or ‘Marca España’ …

Last Sunday there were reports that a Spanish runner in the London Marathon spat in the face of a spectator carrying a Catalan flag; she was the daughter of another runner, a Catalan dermatologist. After the Spanish National Police had confiscated yellow T-shirts and scarves from Barcelona fans before the start of last Saturday’s Copa del Rey (in which the king of Spain was met with a ‘deafening whistle’ during the national anthem), questions were asked in the Spanish senate as to why. The Spanish government eventually denied that any order had been given, and insisted that it was a police and security decision.

Yellow roses featured prominently during Monday’s celebration of Sant Jordi across Catalonia, as a symbol of protest against the Catalan political prisoners. Spain finally began some civil war exhumations at the ‘Valley of the Fallen’ – Franco’s grotesque mausoleum. I say ‘some’ because there are around 34,000 civil war dead there (from both sides) – but only four were to be exhumed. Only in 2016 did a court finally approve the exhumation of two brothers executed by Francoist forces at the start of the civil war. ‘The bodies of Manuel Lapeña, a vet, and his brother Antonio, a blacksmith, were dumped in a mass grave in Calatayud, north-eastern Spain and then dug up decades later and reburied in the basilica without their families’ knowledge or permission,’ reported The Guardian. On Monday, the families weren’t even allowed access in order to witness the start of the search for exhumation.

Willy Toledo, the actor accused of insulting God and the Virgin Mary, failed to turn up for the court hearing (and nor did God and the Virgin Mary). Toledo has now been summoned again for 22nd May, and threatened with arrest if he fails to appear.

The ‘number two’ at the Spanish Treasury was reported as agreeing with his Finance Minister, Cristóbal Montoro, in that there was no misuse of public funds for the 1st October referendum in Catalonia. It seems that five reports have already been issued stating the same thing. The news has been widely reported in the German press, as authorities there still await further evidence in the extradition request of Carles Puigdemont.

On Wednesday, the former president of the Assembly of the Council of Europe and current PP senator, Pedro Agramunt, was forced to deny all allegations against him in a report by an Independent Commission of the European institution that investigates possible corruption. He claimed it was ‘219 pages of lies’ which included reports of bribes, threesomes with prostitutes, envelopes containing €500 notes, bank transfers of €15,000, as well as gifts from Hermès and loads of caviar. He added, ‘I wish I could do these things’, but that he was ‘at an age’ and that ‘it was all false … a ridiculous accusation and without evidence.’ So there you go.

Both Oriol Junqueras and Jordi Cuixart have again requested to be moved to prisons in Catalonia; the request will no doubt be refused. Catalan MP Jordi Sànchez was ordered to remain 18 hours a day in his cell for a month as punishment for recording a voice message for last December’s electoral campaign … er, an electoral campaign in which he was legally allowed to stand as a candidate. The Spanish Constitutional Court (perhaps on the Spanish government’s instructions) has also ruled that Carles Puigdemont can’t actually be the President of Catalonia … er, despite also being allowed to stand in last December’s elections as the leader of his party, and despite gaining enough seats to retain his position as President in a coalition of the pro-independence groups. Indeed, The Times newspaper published an in-depth interview with Puigdemont this very weekend, referring to him as still the current Catalan President … as well as ‘Spain’s public enemy No.1.’ Meanwhile, Spain’s Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis, told German financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, that ‘any mediation [with Catalonia] through a third party would be a victory for Puigdemont, which he didn’t win at the ballot boxes.’

A security camera video (that had been kept concealed for seven years) emerged of Cristina Cifuentes, the PP president of Madrid’s regional government, stealing two tubs of Olay anti-ageing face cream, worth about €40, from an Eroski supermarket. Eroski’s security videos are normally erased after 15 days, so it is unclear how OK Diario obtained the footage and published it. Cifuentes had already been under pressure to resign over allegations that she’d faked her master’s degree, awarded by the King Juan Carlos University in Madrid – and on whom she’d tried to put the blame. Finally she resigned without using the word ‘resign’. Instead, she said she was stepping aside to not jeopardise her administration’s achievements and not allow the ‘leftist opposition’ to take control. It was reported that Rajoy had ordered her to resign before 12 noon, which was the start of the crucial budget debate.

The ‘News Council’ of Spain’s public broadcaster, TVE, has asked the European Parliament to evaluate whether the corporation fulfils ‘the principles of objectivity, plurality and impartiality’ in its efforts to denounce cases of ‘news manipulation and censorship’. Recent controversies included playing the theme tune of The Exorcist over images of Carles Puigdemont.

A judge dismissed the case of some municipal police who’d threatened the Madrid mayor, Manuela Carmena, in a WhatsApp chat. The hate speech, that included wishing her ‘an agonising death’ and referring to her as ‘a motherfucking red bitch’ was private, according to the judge. There were unconfirmed reports of people being paid €50 euros a night to go out and remove yellow ribbons and ‘free political prisoners’ posters, after videos emerged of men in balaclavas doing so. A 3,000 person human chain at Montserrat mountain was formed to demand freedom of Catalan political prisoners still in Spanish jails.

Spain’s Interior Minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, wanted to give awards to the German police who detained Puigdemont. That was embarrassing in itself. The fact that the German authorities then said that they didn’t want him to, made it even more embarrassing. The story was picked up by The Washington Post, which explained that the government of Schleswig Holstein (where the 25th March arrest occurred) had refused to give Spain the names of the officers involved because they ‘only did their jobs’.

A video emerged of scenes outside the ‘bar fight’ in Alsasua, that appeared to contradict versions given at the trial by one of the off-duty Civil Guard officers attacked. Albert Rivera, leader of Spain’s Ciudadanos party, retweeted a collage photo published by El Mundo newspaper, identifying eight Catalan teachers under investigation for supposed ‘hate crimes’. He accused the Spanish government of cowardice for not applying further disciplinary measures. This man hopes to become the next Prime Minister of Spain.

Warning: this last piece of sickening Spanish news (and which became global news) might not be suitable for some people to read.

Back in July 2016, five men from Seville (including a Civil Guard officer and a military officer) gang raped – yes, gang raped – an 18 year old woman at the bull running festival in Pamplona. The men called themselves ‘la manada’ (or ‘wolf pack’) in their WhatsApp group. As the sickening ordeal was detailed by the three judges handling the trial, the victim was ‘penetrated in the mouth’ by all five men, in the vagina by two, and anally by another. None of the men used condoms. Two men filmed their crimes on mobile phones, and one also stole the victim’s phone. The judges described the victim as ‘crouching down’ in the videos, ‘shouting’, ‘moaning in pain’, ‘terrified’, ‘trapped against a wall’ and also ‘boxed in’ – and she was clearly ‘subject to the will’ of the attackers. The victim suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and still receives psychological treatment.

On Thursday, a Navarra court cleared the five men of rape, and found them guilty of just ‘sexual abuse’, with a sentence of just 9 years. Believe it or not, one of the three judges had even called for a not-guilty decision. Lawyers for the victim are appealing against the sentence. The article of the Spanish Criminal Code dealing with sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape makes a distinction between different crimes based on the presence, or not, of ‘violence or intimidation’ during the events. The judges ruled there had been no violence or intimidation used, and therefore no crime of rape. The verdict provoked an immediate public and social outcry, with more than 40 protests across Spanish towns and cities. The protests in Pamplona are on-going.

There are several things that need to really change in Spain, and fast.

10 thoughts on “Un observador inglés (16) – From ‘Brand Spain’ to gang rape. Several things need to really change, and fast.

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Juli Costa-Esteban

    April 29, 2018 at 10:04pm

    Spain is running directly into general implosion. There is no hope for “the oldest nation in the world”. It’s sickening.

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    Pere Puigmartí Bellart

    April 29, 2018 at 10:28pm

    They don’t want to change. They don’t need to change.
    I think they are wrong. More catalans think so. Few spaniards too.
    Very few. Its a pity.

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    Markus Oberndörfer

    April 30, 2018 at 8:49am

    “Not by speaches and majority votes the great questions of our times will be decided […] but by iron and blood.” Otto von Bismarck.

    I really fear that Spain is running towards the situation, when only iron and blood will be regarded as solutions of the ongoing and growing mess. The spanish youth should not follow this old franquist and royalist paroles but think about to build a country, that allows the self determination of its regions and its people.

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    April 30, 2018 at 10:29am

    great article Timothy, I hope someone could make a diary in this still from all the events, week by week, day by day, of past months… it would be an awesome historical document.

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    April 30, 2018 at 4:35pm

    Sickening…absolutely sickening! The people of Spain are ruled by a government that is based in the past…a Medieval past! Even the EU has not even commented…their silence seems to be condoning all of this. International condemnation from all quarters is what is needed.

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    April 30, 2018 at 6:19pm

    Excellent article.

    Embarrassing indeed wanting to give medals to German police officers doing what was the simplest of jobs. It is not as if they performed some heroic deed in detaining a wanted dangerous criminal or terrorist. What a farce!

    If they removed the beastly dictator from the Valle de los Caidos perhaps the relatives would not be so keen to remove their families. Insulting to have family members who disappeared, were shot dead, tortured etc. sharing a resting place with that heinous thing.

    Spain tolerates a Fundacion Francisco Franco that received funds from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport to digitalize records, and it costs the Spanish taxpayer approx. 125,000 euros pa for maintenance and laying of flowers daily to a dictator! Only in Spain would a dictator be revered when after the Civil War ended the assassination of political opponents continued until the dictator died.

    Today political opponents do not disappear in ditches, THEY PUT THEM IN JAIL on trumped up charges indefinitely awaiting trial – a FAKE DEMOCRACY. How does the EU tolerate this?

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    April 30, 2018 at 8:13pm

    Catalan Independence movement now using the “gang rape” of a young woman to publicise their cause now? That’s a new low!!

    I am English but live in Spain, and am following the Catalan story with much interest. What I can say is that, after a surge of interest around the juicy images from 1 October 2017, the international attention has disappeared> Nobody cares anymore outside of Cataluna, and now people are losing interest in Spain as well. The only concrete outcome is economic damage to Cataluna, nothing else has been achieved.

    The current state of the EU and global affairs is such that the EU leaders will never, ever, in any foreseeable circumstance allow an (self proclaimed) “independent” Cataluna to join the EU other than as a new member – a long process over which Spain has a veto. This is existential to the EU and there is no way anybody is going to compromise on it. It’s not going to happen… but keep flailing around and damaging your wonderful region and its people while the industry and investment flows to Madrid, Valencia etc.

    As for “political prisoners” … a politoical prisoner is somebody imprisoned for their beliefs. The Catalan leaders broke very real law. They were warnmed about those laws, and they did it anyway. They are not politoical prisoners, they are normal criminals. The diference is you just don’t agree with the relevant laws. It would make a mockery of rule of law and democracy just to say “oh let them go”. They committed crimes that are on the state book and have been arrested accordingly.

    Please will everyone just GROW UP and gte on with having a nice life. They Spanish government could improve a lot, but it’s not a facist state. The government that is screwing over it’s people here is the Catalan one.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Susan Koller

      May 1, 2018 at 10:52am

      Bimblebob, for someone who supposedly follows the Catalan story closely you seem to have got it amazingly wrong. I take it you live outside of Catalonia and have been following just the Spanish media and Madrid government reports. That could explain why you appear brainwashed and impervious to true reporting. You might want them all to shut up just so you can get on with having a nice life as an expat in a sunny country that lets you live cheaper than at home and where the wine and g&t’s flow freely, but it isn’t your country you live in, so please remember that. Who could blame Catalonia for not wanting to be governed by the Spanish? The gang rape report was just intended to show how pathetic are Spanish judges and the system. You seem to have missed that point entirely.

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    sheryl lord

    May 7, 2018 at 9:36pm

    On Thursday, a Navarra court cleared the five men of rape, and found them guilty of just ‘sexual abuse’, with a sentence of just 9 years. Believe it or not, one of the three judges had even called for a not-guilty decision. Lawyers for the victim are appealing against the sentence. The article of the Spanish Criminal Code dealing with sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape makes a distinction between different crimes based on the presence, or not, of ‘violence or intimidation’ during the events. The judges ruled there had been no violence or intimidation used, and therefore no crime of rape. ……………..would these judges ruled this way if the victim had been a female member of thier FAMILY? and how is FIVE MEN against ONE WOMAN,NOT “violence and intimidation”? maybe the judges need to be raped and see how they like it.

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